Saturday, June 29, 2013

AfrochicTO 2013

Two weeks ago the fourth annual Afrochic Cultural Arts Exhibit was held at C Lounge. The event was amazing and featured a showcase of local artists, designers and entrepreneurs. In case you missed the event, check out the review here

In wanting to learn more about Afrochic and its progression over time, The Collabo Blogspot caught up with one of the founders, Amoye Henry, for a Q & A interview! 
(TCB: The Collabo Blogspot, AH: Amoye Henry)

TCB: What is the importance and driving force behind the creation and execution of Afrochic as a Cultural Arts Exhibit, particularly within the context of the city of Toronto? 

AH: The company: AfroChic Inc. exists as a platform to highlight artists who happen to be part of the African Diasporas (Caribbean, African, American etc) in a positive and enlightening way. With a special focus on women and youth, we seek to create unique and warm experiences where we can share our stories, celebrate our distinctive cultures through art, fashion, entertainment and business networking. In our fourth year of operation, we are evolving and taking on a shape more prepared to engage in international partnerships with similar organizations across the world.

AfroChic Cultural Arts Exhibit is produced by AfroChic; a youth run organization who develops unique spaces and experiences through the talents of creative engineers in Toronto. We execute an annual exhibit which highlights the cultural and rich energy of the distinct and very colorful African-Canadian community of Canada. Over four years in the making, AfroChic has become one of Toronto’s pre-eminent art exhibitions having featured over 100 up and coming fashion designers, musicians, visual artists, digital artists and spoken word vocalists. AfroChic has attracted hundreds of Torontonians and international guests.

TCB. What was the inspiration behind A Vintage Story theme? How was this illustrated through Afrochic Cultural Arts Exhibit, with respect to the performers, art showcased, and fashion? 

AH: This year we wanted to commemorate one of the most distinct periods in our cultures’ histories’ through stories and narratives portraying the powerful radical trends that took place in that era. The 1960's were a landmark period for people of color all across the world. It is often deemed a "counterculture" and era filled with social revolutions, political upheaval and of course fabulous Fashion! It marked the birth of the Civil Rights Movement in America, and is also the period where 32 African countries endured great political growth through gaining independence from their European colonial rulers. The 1960's saw the social movements of other large ethnic minority groups, including the Mexican-American communities, who sought to fight for racial equality and socioeconomic advancement. Additionally, the 1960's brought about a second wave of feminism in North America, Europe and once this movement took shape in these continents, they gained worldwide momentum and appeal.

It was important for us (the team) to draw from these notable situations in history when developing this exhibit. Together, we spoke openly and clearly during our brainstorm sessions before we went about configuring and layering the content for the exhibit. We wanted through the format of the show, to not only create experiences and inspire ideas among our patrons, but also remind us all of where we are today through celebrating independent businesses during our business mixer session and artistry through our performances and fashion showcase. While communicating regularly with our performance and visual artists, we were able to curate an exhibit which paid tribute to this era through Fashion – in the form of creative MOD art displays in shapes, lines, with bold color blocking fixtures – visible hairstyles such as afros, textured hairstyles, bobs and beehives etc.  The musical and performance pieces welcomed tributes to musicians and artists who performed in the 1960's with respect to the artists interests, ex A performer sang "Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind". Through the visual art and live body painting narratives - our amazing visual artists created pieces that specifically highlighted poignant and strong ideas central to the late 1960's civil rights experience. Through our displays, we posted historical facts and imagery throughout the venue space to give our guests the opportunity to learn as they were entertained and visually stimulated. Ultimately, we believe every person at AfroChic was able to either listen or learn about a story and hopefully walk away with more than they came.

TCB: This year marks Afrochic fourth year, what were the distinguishing characteristics or elements that differentiate this year's event from previous years?

AH: First I want to say this was our best year yet. Not only has the feedback been overwhelmingly positive from our supportive guests who have attended since year one, but this year we attracted a new audience and new energy. We are so grateful for all of the inspiring, uplifting feedback, especially the implementation of social media with the hashtags of #afrochic2013. This year we really had a strong social media and placement marketing campaign.

As is the case in previous years, this exhibit is entirely independently funded. We are not at all funded by the government of Canada. Every dollar put into this exhibit is hard earned money that we (the team and our sponsors) have invested because we believe in this exhibit as a vehicle for social empowerment in Toronto. Due to our limited resources, especially when it comes to funding we find creative and unique opportunities to get people talking and get people interested. This year we asked our vendors, designers, artists and volunteers to get on board and help us promote. We asked them to share their stories in explaining why this show is so meaningful to them and why they choose to participate. I could go on every radio station in Toronto, buy as many ads in the TTC I want, but what I have learned and continue to learn is, people love pretty things and great communications, but ultimately people want to hear about experiences and how things change lives. I feel we truly facilitated a story telling network pre-show, during show and currently post-show.

TCB: What is your long term goal for Afrochic?

AH:AfroChic will continue to produce and be a yearly art exhibit. We have already begun preliminary planning for next year’s exhibit. It will be year 5, so we certainly have to go hard.

Eventually I would love to see AfroChic cultural arts exhibit take place in and around Europe, African, the Caribbean and Latin speaking countries.

We would love to streamline AfroChic into a social enterprise that lives digitally online, also in print in a magazine and perhaps one day in a physical structure, in the form of a loft space/office. We envision ourselves as a hub for entertainment, culture, arts and fashion in Toronto, I’m certain it would be a beautiful challenge to run AfroChic operations on a regular basis as opposed to just an annual exhibit. We do however take into account that this is a passion project fueled financially by our individual careers and sustained spiritually through our personal resources, time and energy. It ain’t easy.

I ask that everyone stay in touch with AfroChic and the amazing work our artists/designers/vendors and volunteers are doing through You can also follow us on twitter and instagram @afrochicto and on facebook AfroChic.

Thank you!!

Battle of the Sexes: Love & Money Toronto Edition

Written By:  Chidi Nicole (@BangBangsTheory)
On Friday, June 14th I attended the third installation of the Battle of the Sexes—Toronto Edition. The event was held at The Arta Gallery located at 55 Mill Street, in the heart of the distillery district downtown Toronto. The gallery is well known for its exhibits of art work from nationally and internationally known artists, as well as its loft-style decor that creates an upscale, cultured kind of vibe.  

Upon entering the venue we were greeted by a bevy of caterers who were ready with wine and hors d’ouerves. It was a very welcoming atmosphere to say the least. This really helped to set the tone for the media hour that was great for mixing and mingling with the panelists and organizers before the discussion got underway. 

Guests had an opportunity to check out the some of the vendor booths set up throughout the venue. Vendors included everything from kinky toys to hair supplies to jewelry. Some of the sponsored vendors were Ne Plus Ultra 100% Remy Hair Extensions, The Diana Tracy Collection and Live It Up In Style. I found the vendor booths added a nice interactive touch to the event, particularly in the pre-media hour.

After getting comfortable with my first glass of wine I had an opportunity to speak with the beautiful event creator and host, Telisha Ng.  Having been to similar events that involved open forum discussions I wanted to pick Telisha’s brain to find out what I could expect differently from BOTS.  

Telisha spoke very candidly about the importance of creating a dialogue, not only within relationships, but particularly within the black community.  While the theme for this edition of the event was “Love and Finances”, Telisha feels that BOTS offers more than just themed discussions. She emphasized how important it is to keep these kind of conversations going (which I couldn’t agree more). She added, “These are conversations you might have with a co-worker at Starbucks, but we need to be able to have these conversations anywhere”.  Another element that BOTS offers is its ever-changing group of panelists. Of her A++ panelists, which included blogger Lincoln Anthony Blades, small business consultant Mariah Giscombe, community activist Nigel Birch, and reality starlet Honey Lou, Telisha says she enlisted people she admires that are  either very outspoken or very outgoing—people that could surely bring “fresh perspectives” to the discussion. 


I had an opportunity to speak with a few of the panelists during media hour and also listened to them articulate their opinions during the panel discussion and I would have to say Telisha chose wisely!

Nigel Birch website creator IntelSwagga (multipurpose site that hosts events and creates apparel) feels that BOTS serves the community through empowerment by creating a dialogue. People engage in intellectual conversation and network.

Lincoln Blades blogger/author of serves as a panellist for the 5th time. As the only panelist that has been part of BOTS in Canada and the US, he points out the difference between the only Canadian stop and its US counterparts is that Toronto is quite new to having these kind of conversations in this kind of manner. He feels that in the US cities conversations on relationships, love and money occur in very open formats such as barbershops, salons, in grocery store lines, etc. “Toronto is coming along in that respect, but an event like BOTS helps to develop the community”. On the topic of love and money he stresses the importance of changing the dynamic in relationships to make it work throughout difficult economic periods.

Mariah Giscombe, entrepreneur of is a small business consultant and young entrepreneur.  Mariah came armed with economic statistics to represent for the females and to enlighten the crowd. Mariah was quick to stress that divorce is a major source of poverty amongst women. She stressed the importance of “having your own” when entering a relationship.

The discussion began around 10pm opening to the heated topic of “dating in the recession”. Telisha asked her panelists how the recession affected dating?  Nigel was the first to offer that there are actually more marriages now than ever before and the convenience of cohabitating. 
Honey Lou says the recession has made more women less independent.
Lincoln Blades stirred things up with the implication that people were not being realistic during the recession and that dating ideologies have not changed during this time when they clearly should. “If Red Lobster is not good enough for you on the first date then you can go to hell!” was a memorable quote from Blades, that had definitely got the audience riled up. 
Mariah Giscombe countered by saying that men needed to be more creative with dating during the recession.
The night continued on with lots of energy from the panellists and crowd and was capped off with an amazing swag bag filled with tons of samples from many of the vendors. 

Overall I had an amazing time and of course the car-ride home was filled with more debates on the night. It was amazing! A second Toronto edition is in the works and I highly recommend you be in attendance if you’ve never been before!

If you were at Battle of the Sexes Toronto what did you take away from the discussion? What were some of the highlights of the event for you? Who was your favourite panelist?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Durham Caribbean Festival

Looking for something to do this Saturday afternoon? Why not check out Durham Caribbean Festival!

June 22nd, 2013
Conservation Area Greenwood

Live Entertainment, Great Food, and Fun for the whole family!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Atlanta Carnival- Part Three

Atlanta Carnival 2013

Getting Ready  As I ran to turn of my alarm,  I ran to the shower to get ready. I only had an hour and 15 minutes of sleep, because of course I was partying my life away at jouvert.  This is the life of a carnival baby, so I was very well prepared. The night before I laid out all my makeup and jewels that I would be decorating my face with.  I was in a city that I knew pretty much NO ONE. So I had no choice but to do my own makeup. 
There are a lot of photographers and videographers on the road during carnival. Making sure your picture perfect is always a must. Do not forget to use sun block.

After I  finished my makeup, my girl called me asking me to do her makeup, and also her friends. So we decided to head to her aunts house and do it since her family was there for the weekend, and wanted to see us girls in our costumes before we head out on the road. 

What turned into doing makeup for two people, turned into doing make up for six people.  Then of course makeup came along with 50,000 pictures. Honestly I have no clue where the time went because it went from 8:00am to 12:00 Noon in the matter of  minutes lol.


Carnival on the Road
            So after taking so many pictures, and realizing time flew by, we hopped in the Beamer and headed to find the band. Now of course be that it may, we were EXTREMLY late. I just didn’t realize how late we were.  If you are playing mas promise me you will eat something before you head out on the road its super important. I did not follow my own rule. I ate a few grapes and drank water and juice and a cookie. NOT CONSIDERED EATING. 

            We finally found the parade and jumped out the car and we were clearly beyond late. The parade started at 12:00 Noon, but we were suppose to meet the band at 10:00am. I kept saying to my self, “Oh well the party don’t start till we step in.” Absolutely not true…the party did start and they clearly took off hours ago and we played that cat and mouse game. We passed several bands in search of our band on the road. 

 Photo Credit: Chris Sharp Photography

The sun was beyond blazing hot there was no water in site.  Pedestrians and Patrons with their cameras asked us to  take pictures with us and asked us if they can pose alongside us. For a while we continued to stop and take pics, but after a while we decided ok we will never find our band if we keep taking pics. I was shocked after 45 min of walking, running, and chipping down the road till we met our band I was so surprised that our band was actually the first on the road. You can imagine on an empty belly I was beyond exhausted and thirsty. Nevertheless it was time to get on bad. 

            When we finally got to the band the fun began, the music was blaring, the colors from the costume were beautiful, and the southern hospitality was so sweet. We as Caribbean people always connect, so strangers become friends instantly for that moment.  I finally found people in the band giving out water and went straight for the water. Honestly that water saved me for the moment.  The whining, wukking up, and chipping lasted for at least 30 minutes, (we missed the whole parade). All of the sudden the DJ locked off the music and said the truck was leaving and we had to make our way to the judging point. 

            I was very confused,  not at all should the music stop, not at all should the vibes lock off, especially at a pivotal moment.  The truck left, and we were left figuring out how to reach the stadium. I heard small chat about how the route changed and this was a first and blah blah blah. I was kind of over the whole experience by now because after missing most of the parade, I thought it was all over. We finally made it to the stadium. We get to the gate, a man says that we are at the wrong entrance, so the whole band had to go back around the hill down the stairs and back up another hill. This was a whole lot of walking and no music, so my vibes and energy was gone.

            When we reached the correct entrance the gate was locked. I’m not sure what exactly was going on but we had a lot of just aimless sitting and hot sun. Finally after another half hour of sitting, we were admitted into the arena, and shortly after we crossed the stage. It wasn’t necessarily a stage, it was a football field and some grass. There was a DJ playing music and the selection wasn’t the best song to cross the stage over. That experience wasn’t the best in my eyes. 

            I was very dehydrated and needed water, we asked several bandleaders where could we get water.  They kept saying after you cross the stage, and judging point you can get water and food. Honestly the eagerness to cross the stage was solely at this point for water.  Again after crossing the stage we went to a locked gate. I don’t know if we knew where we were going, but everyone was complaining of dehydration and hunger. Finally we made it to the food and water, and I was pleased at the speed of the line for the food.

            I didn’t want to wait in the line much, so I just grabbed whatever they gave me, so with that I had jerk chicken, rice, and salad. We made our way to the stadium had a seat in the chairs and slowly took a rest.  We thought the whole carnival experience was over.  We saw people entering into the arena and different tables and tents set up with food, drinks, and items for sale. As we were headed to leave we heard dancehall music and saw speakers.
            Of course we see live DJs set up music pumping and we could not leave. For hours we hung out by the music danced our life away, took pictures with people who asked, and partied till the sun came down. A stage show, with several artists were about to perform and we stayed for a little, but we were completely exhausted.
For those just visiting the carnival and not playing mas, I encourage you to arrive early and buy tickets in advanced to get into the stadium, the price was about $15.00 or $20.00 but the line for those without tickets, was astronomical. The line was never ending. Also for those who didn’t have tickets it seemed near impossible to get tickets because everything looked so unorganized down by the entrance gate.

            Overall Atlanta Carnival was a fun experience. There were a lot of kinks and struggles along the way due to heavy amounts of no structure and things being very unorganized, however the parade route was a good length, the band I played with We Kinda Ting Mas had very beautiful costumes, they won which was great. They had a lot of vibes and the bandleaders were very helpful. There were kinks to work out along the way, but what is carnival without a little bacchanal. If choosing to play mas I suggest come play mas with We Kinda Ting, all-inclusive band and beautiful men and woman. I enjoyed the experience. I was asked if I would come back and do it again. Honestly I enjoyed myself at all the parties and the environment was great.

*Mandy’s Favorite
Places to Eat : Mangoes Caribbean Restaurant
Hotel to Stay at : Sheraton Downtown Atlanta
Mas Camp Choice: We Kinda Ting
Fetes to Go:  Flag Fete, Any Stage Show, Anything DJ Stephen Hosts
About The Writer:

Amanda Toney, who goes by XoXo Mandy, currently lives in Boston Massachusetts. She graduated from college with her Bachelors Degree in Business Management and Masters in Business Management. From birth she was initiated into the life of Carnival. Some will say she is the epitome of a Carnival Baby. Although she works hard in her corporate world, she loves to venture off with new opportunities to travel and visit and experience the carnivals of the world. She has been to several carnival but Amanda happily admits, "there is NO PLACE ON THIS EARTH LIKE TRINIDAD CARNIVAL." She is a Trini Native and a soca junkie. She is very well connected and has a lot of first hand experience in the "carnival experience." Amanda also helps out with D'Horizon MAS Camp in Boston. Carnivals Amanda has attended and played MAS throughout the years Trinidad, Point Fortin Borough Day, Boston, Cambridge, New York, New Jersey, Miami, Atlanta, Atlantic City, Philly, DC, and Toronto Caribana. In the Near Future I would love to attend Jamaica Bachannal, Barbados Crop Over London Carnival and Brazil Carnival. In the States I would like to venture off to Hollywood Carnival and Houston CarnivalIf Amanda could make this her long life career, she'd be a great carnival expert. "Live your life like you playing mas, by Kes feat. David Rudder, is how is I love to describe my love for life and carnival, peace love and unity. Hope you enjoy embarking on my adventures of carnival through my eyes. Hope you fall in love with carnival and all it has to offer. Enjoy, and Come Play Ah Mas ! 

For More about Mandy check out:

@XoXoMandy617x Twitter
@XoXoMandy617x Instagram
@XoXoMandy617X Vine
 Amanda Toney on Facebook

About Nickai Photography:

Photographer Nickai  (!/pages/Nickai-Photography-Inc/148701911809314 ) though schooled in Photography pre-digital era,  started shooting professionally for the internationally noted Poisondart Sound and within a matter of a few years becoming a regular on the Florida Caribbean Entertainment circuit.  Never seen without his camera too far out of reach the passion is apparent in the fact that everything is a target for his eye! Presently pursuing a  curiosity for  cinematography and filmmaking while working as House Photographer for ( Cine Enigma Studios ) and honing his fine art photography skills through various projects of his own,  be sure to pay attention to his name scrolling on credits for camera work on short films, music videos, documentaries and all of the sort.  Culturally inspired works celebratory of nature;  it’s beauty beholden by a keenly trained lens aspire to bring you around one way or another  for a closer look at a recognizable and admirable style for his trade and craft.